The proximate cause of this war was the seizure, by the authorities of Bolivia, of the effects of the Chilean Nitrate Company at Antofagasta, then part of the Bolivian province of Atacama. The first act of hostility was the despatch of 500 soldiers to protect Chilean interests at Antofagasta. This force, under Colonel Sotomayor, landed and marched inland; the only resistance encountered was at Calama on the river Loa, where a handful of newly raised militia was routed. About the same time Chilean warships occupied Cobija and Tocapilla, and Sotomayor, after his victory at Calama, marched to the latter port. Bolivia had declared war on the 1st of March, but Peru not till the 5th of April: this delay gave the Chileans time to occupy every port on the Bolivian coast. Thus the Chilean admiral was able to proceed at once to the blockade of the southern ports of Peru, and in particular Iquique, where there took place the first naval action of the war. On the 21st of April the Chilean sloop "Esmeralda" and the gunboat "Covadonga"--both small and weak ships--engaged the Peruvian heavy ironclads "Huascar" and "Independencia"; after a hot fight the "Huascar" under Miguel Grau sank the "Esmeralda" under Arturo Piat, who was killed, but Carlos Condell in the "Covadonga" manoeuvred the "Independencia" aground and shelled her into a complete wreck. The Chileans now gave up the blockade and concentrated all their efforts on the destruction of the "Huascar," while the allies organized a field army in the neighborhood of Tacna and a large Chilean force assembled at Antofagasta.
On the 8th of October 1879 the "Huascar" was brought to action off Angamos by the "Blanco Encalada," and the "Almirante Cochrane." Grau was outmatched as hopelessly and made as brave a fight as Prat at Iquique. Early in the action a shot destroyed the Peruvian's conning tower, killing Grau and his staff, and another entered her turret, killing the flag captain and nearly all the crew of the turret guns. When the "Huascar" finally surrendered she had but one gun left in action, her fourth commander and three-quarters of her crew were killed and wounded, and the steering-gear had been shot away. The Peruvian navy had now ceased to exist. The Chileans resumed the blockade, and more active operations were soon undertaken. The whole force of the allies was about 20,000 men, scattered along the seaboard of Peru. The Chileans on the other hand had a striking force of 16,000 men in the neighborhood of Antofagasta, and of this nearly half was embarked for Pisagua on the 26th of October. The expeditionary force landed, in the face of considerable opposition, on the 2nd of November, and captured Pisagua. From Pisagua the Peruvians and Bolivians fell back along the railway to their reinforcements, and when some 10,000 men had been collected they moved forward to attack the Chilean position of San Francisco near Dolores station. In the end the Chileans were victorious, but their only material gain was the possession of Iquique and the retreat of the allies, who fell back inland towards Tarapacá. The tardy pursuit of the Chileans ended in the battle of Tarapacá on the 27th. In this the allies were at first surprised, but, rapidly recovering themselves, took the offensive, and after a murderous fight, in which more men were killed than were wounded, the Chileans suffered a complete defeat. For some inexplicable reason the allies made no use of their victory, continued to retreat and left the Chileans in complete possession of the Tarapacá region. With this the campaign of 1879 ended. Chile had taken possession of the Bolivian seaboard and of the Peruvian province of Tarapacá, and had destroyed the hostile navy.
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